Sarumarine (Level 9)

Art Shift in Season 2 of Gunslinger Girl is... weird...
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Gunslinger Girl? We'll see...
Gunslinger Girl? We'll see...

As a way to ease myself in to anime and the site in general, I decided to put the "Like X? You Might Like Y!" to the test. I've been pretty big into Black Lagoon so I used the similar franchise tab on the side of the page to pick something else to watch. So as the title of this blog implies, this will be the first time for this next series, Gunslinger Girl. Going on an image gallery or two, on the surface it looks like little girls and big guns. Not unlike the immensely creepy Gretel from Black Lagoon.

Maybe because of that I have the expectation it's going to be really tragic or just plain dark. And I can handle that, provided it's done well. Hansel and Gretel were really twisted characters, but they were compelling. Even though they did really horrible things, I still felt sorry for them. Which is an accomplishment considering what they are.

So I went and watched the first episode of Gunslinger Girl. It should go without saying that a lot of my feelings can be prefaced with "judging from this first episode."

Gunslinger Girl (Episode 1: Fratello)

What's it About?

Those are some Adorable Killers
Those are some Adorable Killers

It uses a rather heavy premise of an Italian government agency that salvages damaged little girls from hospitals and trains them to be covert government killing machines. Cybernetics are in play as they can handle themselves even without a sub-machine gun or trench gun in hand. The main girl of this episode, Henrietta, catches a wooden bookcase twice her size with one hand and doesn't break a sweat. What's nice is that they tackle the rather obvious question of "why little girls?" pretty early on. The younger they are, the better they adapt to the implants. Then there's the tactical point of... no one suspects a little girl armed to the teeth.

Of course considering what anime is sometimes known for (and because I just came from Black Lagoon) I already know: ALWAYS suspect the little girl.

OK, What Happens?

This show kinda strikes me as procedural at some points. And it's pretty moody. There's a lot of flashbacks going on between the main action, so you get to know government assassin Henrietta and her government handler Jose. After some pretty horrific things happen to Henrietta, she's picked up for the assassin program and gets put through the paces. Watching a young girl go through a live fire training course and coldly shooting up cardboard targets is pretty chilling. Especially her emotionless stare... which is the kind of thing I've associated with career killers or hardened psychopaths in other shows. Besides cybernetics, personality conditioning is another thing they throw in before training. It doesn't seem foolproof.

It really reminds me of the saying that surviving and living aren't the same thing. Henrietta survived her whole family getting slaughtered... so she could become a killer. From this first episode, it comes off like a no win situation. Especially when the main action kicks off and Henrietta goes ballistic and slaughters an apartment full of gangsters... that she was supposed to take alive to locate the real target. The other girls that show up don't seem as tightly wound, but I'm sure there's plenty of time to come undone if Henrietta is any indication.

Jose is also played pretty well as a guy in a terribly awkward situation of using a girl as an assassin. He seems caught between treating Henrietta as a weapon and the little girl she appears to be. One of the agent guys puts it best when he refers to Henrietta as expendable. She's not an individual, just a tool they can replace later if she snaps or breaks.

As a somewhat random side note, this episode has some crazy long pauses for effect. One pause in a hospital room went on for so long I thought my video player had frozen or something. That might take some getting use to if it keeps popping up.

What Did You Think?

From the first episode? Color me interested. My major fear is that going by the tone, I feel this series could get really dark if not outright cruel. Black Lagoon could get dark at times but it always had the action movie undercurrent. The spectacle could sometimes lessen the blow as the main characters tear through human trash, ramp boats into the air, and drop kick sleazy gunmen with ease. I don't think Gunslinger Girl is going to have that same kind of emotional rubber band. Henrietta's action scene in this episode is treated as a major blunder from mission control. And considering she takes a bullet and then has a little breakdown... Man.

I'm just afraid it could get too depressing to be entertaining.

How Similar is It to Black Lagoon Then?

Henrietta and her "Violin"
Henrietta and her "Violin"

To get back to the point of testing the recommendation tab, granted I'm drawing from one episode, but some parallels can be made with Black Lagoon. For starters, this show has the same loving detail spent on drawing and animating firearms. For one episode they have a lot of different weapons on display. There's what looks like a trench shotgun, a bunch of well drawn handguns, a Dragunov sniper rifle, and easily my favorite: Henrietta's FN P90 sub-machine gun. I suppose it's hard not to sound gun crazy when I say I love the P90 for its odd design and fifty round magazine. So to see it pop up out of a violin case and get put to good use was pretty cool. The picture I've embedded to the right is something I must have seen a hundred times in people's banners or wallpapers without knowing where it came from. So Gunslinger Girl did offer some closure in that respect.

The short action scene hits some of the same notes from Black Lagoon, if only because of a one man army scenario where a character takes on a group of enemies single handed. And a little girl with a gun. I'll have to go back and check dates, but the more I think about it, the more it seems that Gretel and her B.A.R. is a wink and a nod to this series. Only with more psychopathy. But the tone between the two shows couldn't be more different. Black Lagoon is pretty Tarantino in execution. Gunslinger Girl takes itself a lot more seriously, which I appreciate considering its subject matter revolves around child assassins. P90 or not, that's all kinds of messed up.

Are You Going to Watch More?

Sure. But like I said. I'm just kind of afraid where things will go. For those who have already seen this series through (anime or manga) please try to keep it low key. In the event I do watch more, I don't want to be spoiled. I feel like the major plot points in this show could pack quite the punch.

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